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An idiot's guide to the world

Karl Pilkington turns travel writer

An idiot's guide to the world
18 September 2011

To celebrate Season 2 of An Idiot Abroad, Karl Pilkington reveals his tips for a successful holiday.


"Americans are pretty annoying. We pulled up once on Route 66, and this guy said to me, ‘Where are you from?’ I said, ‘London,’ and he said, ‘Is that London, France or London, Italy?’ I mean, what do you say to that? “On a plane journey, I was sat next to this American woman and she goes, ‘Oh, you English, you don’t respect us. If it wasn’t for us, you wouldn’t have cheese.’ It’s things like that where you think, ‘I genuinely don’t know what to say to you.’ I’m sure LA and New York are fine, but that middle bit… it’s a different world. “I had to do this new-age therapy there, too. I hated it. Cuddle Party, it was called. You go up to strangers and hug them. It seemed dodgy to me. When we left, I reckon more happened than just cuddling.”


“In South Africa, I had to cook a meal for this king and his mates from the Ndebele tribe. I panicked because it was the first dinner party I’d ever done. Plus, I was staying in this tiny caravan so I had to cook it all on one of those little drop-down gas rings. I was doing beans on toast with cheese, and I suddenly thought, ‘Sh*t, I haven’t got a tin opener.’ We were in the middle of nowhere, but luckily there was this woman nearby who had this sort of tool I could use to get the beans open. It was proper stressful, but I managed it in the end. I didn’t have a toaster so I was just chucking bits of bread on the gas flame. I thought it was going to be a proper sh*t meal, but they were quite polite about it. I don’t know if the king actually liked the food, though. He kept on asking, ‘Where’s the meat?’ He definitely didn’t like the wiggly worm sweets. I brought some of the sour ones out for a little starter. I just put them on a plate with some apples. The king was going on about how he’d never seen these wiggly worms before, and I was trying to tell him, ‘They’re like Haribo,’ but he didn’t get it.”


“I love animals and all that, but when we were in Africa we had to walk for 10 hours to see a gorilla. Anyway, we finally found one, and… it was all right. I couldn’t really enjoy it because I was wet through, p*ssed off and sat on nettles. Then, the next morning, what do we see right outside our hotel? A f*cking gorilla sat under a tree. A couple of days later, I went to this house that had a hippo as a pet. It looked pretty weird chilling out on a mattress in front of a plasma telly. Ricky [Gervais] was like, ‘It’s cruel,’ when I told him, but it’s not. The hippo loves it. It drinks herbal tea, eats biscuits. They even give it massages. It wanders off whenever it wants. If it didn’t like it, it’d just leave, wouldn’t it?”


“We had this tour guide in Russia, and he was the most miserable bloke I’ve ever met in my life. Such a moody b*stard. He said to me, ‘What do you want to see in Russia?’ I was like, ‘I dunno, I’ll just have a look around.’ He goes, ‘You’ve come here with no knowledge? If I’d known you were like this, I wouldn’t have picked you up.’ I said to him, ‘I thought I was a miserable b*stard, mate, but I’ve got f*ck all on you.’ He didn’t give a sh*t, though. It got quite awkward by the end. He kept taking the p*ss out of my accent. Telling me he couldn’t understand what I was saying. Most of the time I get on with people, but not these tour guides. We had one in Africa too when we were seeing the gorilla. He was talking the whole time and I was thinking, ‘Shut up, mate. Just let me enjoy this supposedly magical moment, even though my feet are throbbing and I think I’m going to have a heart attack.’”


“I brought loads of bags of Revels with me to cheer me up, and they were quite comforting. Actually, they came in handy in Russia. I went to Star City, Moscow, because I was meant to take a zero-gravity flight. Anyway, I was feeling knackered so I had a medical and they told me I couldn’t do it. It turned out I had tonsillitis. I was pretty relieved about missing the flight, but obviously I had to pretend I was gutted. Apparently the producer had spent a fortune to book me in so I suggested that they take a bag of Revels up instead. I had about eight packs on the Trans-Siberian Express so I was sick of them. It cost about 20 grand, I think — just to put some Revels in zero-gravity.”


“That’s the main thing I’ve learned from this series — never have any expectations. I went to this beautiful little island in the South Pacific, and it p*ssed it down the whole time. I had this bit of root to eat, and it was pouring with rain. People always say [about the programme], ‘Is it made up?’ but how do you make up the weather? And then, on the day I left the island — glorious sunshine. Just unbelievably sh*tty luck. I thought America would be easy too, but it wasn’t. I use references all the time — it’s just the way I speak — yet they never get them. When you’re talking about Dempsey & Makepeace they haven’t got a clue.”


“Having a phone with photos on it is good. It’s funny the different reactions you get when you show people pictures of yourself dressed as a Thai ladyboy. I showed the Eskimos in Alaska and they couldn’t get their heads around it. The best people I met were at this dwarf village in China. They do a little show at the end of the day too. About 100 of them all dancing on this hill, and you get a little sort of Peter Andre bloke dancing around. It’s not a bad performance, actually.”

An Idiot Abroad 2: The Bucket List starts on 23 September at 9pm on Sky1 and Sky1HD

(Images: Freddie Claire / Sky1 HD)